Hard Rock Hell ABC 2021 poster

HRH ABC: The Big Bad Review

Last weekend was Hard Rock Hell’s very first ABC three day festival, combining the usually separate AOR, Blues and Crows festivals into one big event.

After the 14th edition of HRH the previous weekend, Great Yarmouth was ready for round 2 with a jam packed line up.

Walking in gave us the vibe you always get at these kind of events. When you see a lot of people in one place all for the same reason, it can be really heart warming. Unfortunately, this nostalgic feeling was very quickly interrupted – we were turned away! The very bored looking “bouncer” said the room was at full capacity and sent us to a depressing, empty-looking second room even though a second stage band was scheduled at that time. Whilst health and safety is understandably a priority, after purchasing tickets and driving hours to the venue to be told you can’t enter was disappointing to say the least – especially when I clearly saw others walking in and out of rooms as they liked without a problem.

We automatically headed to the bar to lick our wounds and wait. After a pint, we headed back to the other room (with actual music playing) to see if we could get in… only to find Bad Touch performing an hour ahead of schedule and end up missing their entire set. It was the icing on the cake at this point. After enjoying a final song from them, after all they are fantastic, we headed to the other room to wait for another band to play.

In the main room was Little Triggers, a two piece band from Liverpool. Whilst the punky duo are clearly talented, their sound was a lot to take in. They easily filled the large room with drums, one guitar and vocals but that was arguably the problem. There were no highs or lows, just one continuous loud sound – so much so that I couldn’t always tell where one song stopped and another started. Having said this, I would be interested in hearing what they produce in the future.

Following Little Triggers in the main room was Twister – almost like an emo, glam rock band. I say emo because the vocalist was styling messy and dyed hair do with a heavy fringe that could rival Black Veil Brides. The overpowering backing vocals occasionally ruined their overall sound, but their music itself was decent.

At this point the schedule was all over the place and Bootyard Bandits played a few hours late. Whether it’s to a packed room or a packed festival, they like to put on a show and keep the crowd entertained throughout.

On the second day, I was excited to see Sons Of Liberty. After seeing them for the first time at Rockin The Bowl, I knew the crowd were going to love them – and they did. It was odd seeing them play in a small, although full, room. In fact for a festival it was odd seeing all of the bands play in small/medium sized rooms with low ceilings. They definitely deserved to play the main stage, and I think a larger stage would have done their performance justice.

Interesting band name time – Crow Black Chicken. The vocalist brought up an awkward story about drinking cool aid to receive absolutely no reaction from the crowd. I’ll leave that one there.

Deep Blue Sea reminded me of Black Stone Cherry for all the right reasons – the vocalist had a soulful, rocky tone of voice that really brought to life the band’s southern rock and blues sound. I’d love to see them again.

Jimmy Regal and The Royals unfortunately suffered from the reoccurring sound issues with the harmonica cutting out frequently. Not their fault at all, and I would be interested in seeing them play smoothly in the future.

I’m surprised that Creedance Clearwater Review didn’t have a headlining slot over the weekend. They pulled a huge crowd, with the majority knowing every single word to every single song. Although the band members consisted of a new lineup, they still put on an enjoyable show and did the originals justice.

Aaron Buchanan and The Cult Classics – a highlight of the entire weekend. Featuring previous frontman of Heaven’s Basement and three band members from Bootyard Bandits, the band were energetic and all-round talented – with an entertaining front man who made the crowd laugh in between songs. Band banter may have strayed off course occasionally and led to one or two comments I think we could have all done without. Unfortunately the band’s talent may have led to a couple of band members fighting for the lime light – every 5 seconds it felt like one musician was stepping in front of the other to get the crowd’s attention. Maybe they just like crowd interaction or maybe they’re built for bigger stages, but I’d love to see them again if they can learn to share the stage.

Friday night finished with a set from Simon McBride. His set just oozed professionalism, from sound to ability to performance. He was a class act and it was refreshing to see. If he’s playing near you, don’t miss him.

Saturday saw a band called Lixx on the third stage aka small room. I was slightly put off by the vocalist’s excessive arm movement, he looked like he was trying to land a plane, but they must have been doing something right to attract a decent crowd at half two in the afternoon.

The Nile Deltas were the first band I saw with a keyboard player – something I always enjoy at a gig but unfortunately I couldn’t hear it. Hopefully I’ll catch them at another gig as they were all clearly talented musicians with what would be an excellent sound if the balance was right.

Collateral were a big hit on the main stage. The vocalist admitted to being high on prescription drugs after injuring himself the night before at Planet Rockstock. Combined with excessive drinking throughout the gig, there were some mistakes to the point where the band had to stop two or three times to try again and restart. Collateral have the potential to reach even bigger heights if they polish their live performance. Having said that, the band were excellent overall and lots of fun to watch. They remind me of a young Bon Jovi – ones to watch out for, they’ll be playing bigger venues in no time.

Mojo Preachers were the first band with a female member that I got to watch this weekend. Unfortunately, they were one of very few bands with a female member. What’s up with that? Hard Rock Hell, give us a diverse line up please. Mojo Preachers were a great band – talented and powerful without needing to show off or overdo it. Pure soul and blues with a bit of grit to them. I’d love to see them again.

Dare on the main stage were fantastic. Fronted by former Thin Lizzy keyboard player Darren Wharton, they played the classic ‘Emerald’ which was incredible to hear. Professional from start to finish, I’m glad I saw them live and will lookout for them again.

Gun were a great band to finish the weekend off with and the crowd were ready for them. The whole place was bouncing and thoroughly enjoyed their set.

In terms of music, the whole weekend was a great success! Unfortunately the packed schedule was occasionally misleading, the venue wasn’t great, the drink prices were extortionate (I’m talking £8 for a drink) and the accommodation was shoddy. Maybe 2022 calls for a new venue?

Not caught up with Hard Rock Hell’s main weekend? Read it here